United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 Global Goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. These Global Goals call for a comprehensive new approach to development rooted in the planetary boundaries, equity, and inclusivity. Spearheaded by the United Nations through a deliberative process involving its 193 Member States, the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted on September 25th, 2015. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

Australia has a commitment to promoting sustainable development globally. Much of our work contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in low- and middle-income countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. See below for examples of our contribution.

Goal 1: No Poverty

Improving cattle production in Myanmar

We aim to improve cattle production for smallholder farmers in the Myanmar Central Dry Zone through improved animal nutrition, health and management. To do this we identify opportunities and constraints to develop a beef enterprise, develop appropriate feeding, health and management systems for cattle, and quantify impacts of improved forage and animal management on household livelihoods. Our findings help smallholder farmers to develop a productive and sustainable beef industry. More information is available here.


We identify ways to sustainably maximise yields in livestock systems in Africa and Asia for poverty alleviation and global food security. To do this we collate current baseline data, quantify yield gaps and identify best-bet interventions to increase productivity. Our findings are used by donors and development agencies to target investments in the livestock sector to maximise impact, reduce poverty and increase nutrition security. More information is available here.

Integrating legumes into farming systems

We identify ways to optimise forage legume productivity in Indonesian farming systems, and determine the likely contribution legumes make to the nitrogen supply of subsequent crops. This provides improved knowledge and skills that could contribute to increased crop and livestock productivity, flowing through to improved livelihoods, economic status and food security. More information is available here.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Agricultural diversity

We explore opportunities to secure stable incomes and food security through agricultural diversification, which refers to increasing the plant or production diversity in a farm. To do this we explore the benefits and limits of agricultural diversity, map crop diversity globally, and identify where farming diversity increases food security. Our research advances the understanding of the links between the diversity of agricultural production, land use, food security and climate from the regional to global scale. We aim to provide evidence for strategies that contribute to sustainable development and food security globally. More information is available here.

Ceres2030: Sustainable solutions to end hunger

We contribute to the Ceres2030 initiative that aims to determine the costs and effective solutions for tackling the objectives laid out in the Sustainable Development Goal 2. Our contribution involves exploring which on-farm interventions can alleviate water scarcity to help to increase farmers’ yields, incomes, and productivity in water scarce regions. To do this we identify the range of interventions that tackle water scarcity that take into consideration smallholders’ incomes and productivity. We also examine if the available evidence assessed Sustainable Development Goal 2.3’s cross cutting themes of gender and environmental impacts. These findings enable donors and decision-makers to understand the geographic and socio-political contexts under which on-farm interventions for tackling water scarcity have been tested, and whether they have considered gender and environmental impacts. More information is available here.

Asian livestock futures

We examine how Southeast Asian livestock systems are changing and will be likely to change in the future as a result of population increases, and income and consumption changes. Using mixed methodologies consisting of projections and participatory scenarios, together with local farm and value chain case studies, we identify the key constraints to the competitiveness, sustainability and viability of the smallholder sector in Vietnam and Cambodia. More information is available here.

Mapping child malnutrition in Africa

We are involved in work that maps child stunting, wasting, and underweight in Africa. For a study published in Nature in 2018, we contributed key data maps of agricultural production and nutrient diversity that together with other data, were used to explain child growth failure. The addition of our data helped to achieve a more complete and robust analysis. This work provided the first comprehensive geospatial analysis of child growth failure in 51 African countries from 2000 to 2015, offering highly relevant sub-national information on key nutrition indicators for policymakers and health practitioners at all administrative subdivisions. This can facilitate targeted interventions to those populations with the greatest need, in order to reduce health disparities and accelerate progress. More information is available here.

EAT-Lancet Commission of Food, Planet, Health

We contribute to the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health , which brings together world-leading scientists from around the world to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet. We use spatially-explicit global datasets of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, land use, agricultural and nutrient production to provide input to the Food, Planet, Health Report. The Commission performs a comprehensive scientific review of knowledge about what constitutes a healthy diet, what is a sustainable food system and how we can provide a healthy and sustainable diet to a growing population. More information is available here.

Global Nutrition Report

We contributed spatially-explicit global datasets of agricultural and nutrient production to the Global Nutrition Report 2017. The Global Nutrition Report is the only independent and comprehensive annual review of the state of the world’s nutrition. The report is a multi-partner initiative that provides an understanding of our ability to meet global intergovernmental nutrition targets. More information is available here.

Nutritional Diversity

We develop spatially-explicit global datasets to estimate agricultural and nutrient production by farm size, and also study the associations between farm size, agricultural diversity, and nutrient production. This work incorporates the latest spatial and statistical data on crops, livestock, and fish products. This work is crucial to design interventions that might be appropriately targeted to meet multiple Sustainable Development Goals and promote healthy diets and ecosystems in the face of population growth, urbanisation, and climate change. More information is available here.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Land resource-food price nexus

As presented in Obersteiner et al. (2016), we assess the land resource-food price nexus of the Sustainable Development Goals. We use a comprehensive modelling approach to understand how coherent policy combinations can manage trade-offs among environmental conservation initiatives and food prices. This work and future systems analyses will allow policy-makers to negotiate trade-offs and exploit synergies as they assemble sustainable development strategies equal in scope to the ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals. More information is available here.

Goal 13: Climate Action

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

We contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as adaptation and mitigation options, and the Special Reports on various topics related to climate change. Through its assessments, the IPCC determines the state of knowledge on climate change. It identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community on topics related to climate change, and where further research is needed. More information is available here.

Contact Mario Herrero for more information.